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Old December 6th, 2017, 08:36 AM   #591

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From the previous page:

transhumance noun \ tran(t)s-ˈhy-mən(t)s , tranz- , -ˈy- \ (French, from transhumer to practice transhumance, from Spanish trashumar, from tras- trans- [from Latin trans-] + Latin humus earth)

: seasonal movement of livestock (such as sheep) between mountain and lowland pastures either under the care of herders or in company with the owners

transhumant \-mənt\ adjective or noun

* * *

Returning to the Border reivers via Fraser's superb volume The Steel Bonnets:

The agricultural system of the Borderers, peaceful and lawless alike, followed a regular pattern. From autumn to spring, when the nights were long, was the season for raiding; the summer months were for husbandry, and although raiding occurred then also, it was less systematic. Tillage took place in spring and summer, and the crops were mainly oats, rye and barley, but the main effort went into cattle and sheep raising. For this the rural Borderer had to be mobile, leaving his winter dwelling about April to move into the "heilands" where he lived in his sheiling for the next four or five months while the cattle pastured.

Although the sheiling communities were safer than the winter quarters, they were not immune from the reivers. Their inaccessibility cut both ways, for if it made raiding more difficult it also placed the herdsmen farther from the protection of the Warden forces. Eure wrote to Burghley at the start of the 1597 summering to complain that he could not defend the Middle March sheilings "without I have 100 foot from Berwick to lie during the summer with them for defence". In that season at least the Scots were hitting the sheilings harder than usual, so that Eure found his people were reluctant to venture out summering, "which is their cheifest profitt".

Following this system of transhumance was easier for people who were not accustomed to build houses for permanence, and who had learned from generations of warfare and raiding to live on the hoof. Even their winter quarters were often makeshift affairs that could be put up in a matter of hours. They were fashioned of clay, or of stones when they were available, and sometimes of turf sods, with roofs of thatch or turf. Most of the isolated holdings would be of this type, "huts and cottages" as Leslie says, "about the burning of which they are nowise concerned". It was easy enough to build another, and Sir Robert Bowes described in 1546 how "if such cottages or cabins where they dwell in be bront of one day they will the next day maik other and not remove from the ground".

In the larger villages there was more effort at permanence, with sturdy stone houses and walls, and in Tynedale and on the Scottish side there were some "very stronge houses" constructed of massive baulks of oak bound hard together and "so thycke mortressed that yt wilbe very harde, without greatt force and lasoure, to break or caste [them] downe". By lining the walls and roofs thickly with turf the builders went some way towards fire-proofing these block-houses; Ill Will Armstrong's house in the Scottish West March was "buylded after siche a manner that it couth not be brynt ne distroyed, unto it was cut downe with axes".

The next stage up from the wooden block-house was the peel tower, many of which can still be seen all over the Border. An excellent example is Smailholm, near Kelso, or Hollows Tower on the Esk, which are rather de luxe models, but show exactly the purpose which the peel tower served.

The peel was built of stone, with walls of massive thickness, and ideally was three or four storeys high. The only entrance was through a double door at ground level, one of the doors being an outer iron grating, and the other of oak reinforced with iron. The bottom storey was used as a store room, and the floors above were reached by a narrow curving stair, called a turnpike, usually going up clockwise to that a defender retreating up the flight had his unguarded left side to the wall, and his sword arm to the outside; his attacker, coming up, was at the disadvantage of having his sword arm to the wall. Tradition has it that the Kerrs, who were notoriously left-handed, built their stairs anti-clockwise.

The upper floors were the living quarters, and at the very top there would usually be a beacon, to summon help in attack or give warning of an impending foray.

— George MacDonald Fraser, The Steel Bonnets (1971)
Bonus word:

shieling (variants: sheiling, shealing, etc.) noun \ ˈshē-lən , -liŋ \ (Mid 16th century: from Scots shiel ‘hut’ [probably connected in some way with the synonymous Old Norse skle] + -ing)

Scottish and Northern English
1 : A roughly constructed hut used while pasturing animals
1.1 : An area of pasture

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A ruined sheiling in Gleann Mr, south of Oban

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Smailholm Tower


culverin noun \ ˈkəl-və-rən \ (Middle English, from Middle French couleuvrine, from couleuvre snake, from Latin colubra)

: an early firearm:
a : a rude musket
b : a long cannon (such as an 18-pounder) of the 16th and 17th centuries

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Old April 3rd, 2018, 05:36 AM   #592

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Tracing the development of the term "culverin" and the various weapons it is used to describe.

The types of gunpowder weapons covered by this term varied greatly. The main usage referred to cannon, but a secondary meaning was small firearms that evolved into the first handguns (coulverines main). These fired lead rather than stone or iron shot. Even concerning artillery alone, the term was used for guns of greatly varying and imprecise sizes, including light guns less than three feet long with bores as small as one inch (esmeril, semi-saker, falcom, falconet, minion, pasavolante, and serpentine). Some early types were small, firing 1/3-pound shot 200 yards or less. Others were medium-sized guns that could throw 6 to 9-pound shot several thousand yards, though just one-tenth that distance with any accuracy or power. The largest were capable of hurling 32-pound stone or iron balls several thousand yards with moderate accuracy. In time, "culverin" came to mean fairly large and long, thick-barreled guns designed to throw shot accurately at extended ranges. The French carted two "coulverines" to Formigny, one of the last battles of the Hundred Years' War (1337--1453).

Culverins were useful in sieges to hammer walls and provide covering fire for engineers, sappers, and military laborers engaged in digging or infantry guarding approaches and mines. A hundred years later culverins were the main gun used in war at sea, as long-range chase weapons or ship-smashers that could cripple a ship if fired broadside at close range. In the early 16th century one type of naval culverin was standardized at a caliber of 140mm. It fired solid shot or specialized ordinance up to 8 kilogram in weight. By the start of the 17th century "culverin" described a gun 11--12 feet long, that could shoot 18-pound shot to an effective range of 1,700 yards and a maximum range of 6,500. A "culverin-bastard" was a 9-foot gun that fired 12-pound shot an effective range of 600 yards and a maximum range of 4,000. A "demi-culverin" ("media culebrina" or "culverin-moyenne") was also nearly 9 feet long, but fired 10-pound shot to a greater effective range, 850 yards, and a maximum range of 5,000 yards. The "culverin-royal" was the monster of the class at many tons deadweight and 16 feet in length. I could hurl 32-pound shot with reasonable accuracy and great effect to 2,000 yards, and had an impressive maximum range of 7,000 yards. Never before had killing been possible at such distances.

— Cathal J. Nolan, The Age of Wars of Religion, 1000-1650 Volume I (2006)

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Early (15th century) culverins, from 'The Gun and Its Development' (1881) by William Wellington Greener

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Demi-culverin circa 1587 mounted on a reproduction carriage at Pevensey Castle


propinquity noun \ prə-ˈpiŋ-kwə-tē \ (Late Middle English: from Old French propinquit, from Latin propinquitas, from propinquus ‘near’, from prope ‘near to’)

1 : the state of being close to someone or something; proximity

2 : close kinship

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